Liepaja lands win
Liepaja lands win
Latvian trophy goes back to Baltic Sea city
Liepajas Metalurgs won the Latvian title seven times between 2000 and 2012 when the local metal factory stopped supporting the team financially. During that time the hockey landscape has changed too with the creation of KHL team Dinamo Riga in 2008. But in 2013 Liepaja had to withdraw its senior team and also the junior team that competed in the second-tier Russian junior league MHL-B.
In the 2013/2014 season there was no team from the third-largest city of Latvia in the Latvian league and only youth hockey continued in Liepaja. One year later a new club was founded to continue the tradition of Liepaja as a hockey power in the top Latvian league. And in its second year HK Liepaja won the Latvian championship and brought the trophy back to the Baltic Sea after it has been won by different teams from Riga in between.
Liepaja won the regular season with a 23-7 record ahead of defending champion MOGO Riga and HK Kurbads from the town of Ogre. Former U20 national team forward Maris Dilevka was the dominating player with 23 goals and 54 points in the regular season.
The team got a bye to the semi-finals where it beat Prizma Riga 3-1 while third-seeded Kurbads eliminated defending champion MOGO Riga 3-1.
The best-of-seven final series went over full distance. Kurbads won the first game but Liepaja reacted with three wins in a row. Just one win away from winning the Virsliga, Kurbads fought back and won Game 5 in Liepaja 5-1 and Game 6 on home ice in Ogre 5-2 to tie the series and force Game 7.
1,502 fans filled the rink in Liepaja and saw their team earn a 3-0 first-period lead on goals from Egils Kalns, Ralfs Grinbergs and Bruno Zabis but Kurbads reacted with second-period goals from Rihards Remins and Aleksandrs Macijevskis to bring the score within reach. With a time-out taken and the goalie pulled, Toms Hartmanis tied the game for Kurbads with 29 seconds left in regulation time after a pass from behind the opponent’s net from Gatis Gricinskis to force an overtime decision about the Latvian championship.
At 2:49 of the extra time hometown forward Zabis became the hero for Liepaja as he scored the game-winning goal for his team after a horizontal pass from Kalns through the opponents defence.
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